Rubbing Elbows with the Innovate 100 — A Personal Account

An exuberant group of New Jersey innovators descended on the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, May 14, for this year’s  Innovate New Jersey Celebration.  The event honored 100 leaders of New Jersey’s innovation ecosystem and included friends and family, making the total attendance over 450 people.

The celebration was sponsored by the  HELIX NJ (New Brunswick), Morgan Stanley (New York), Nokia Bell Labs (Murray Hill), Rutgers University (New Brunswick, Newark, Camden), The Green Group (Woodbridge), the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, and Middlesex County .

 What stood out about that evening, orchestrated by Innovation+ leader James Barrood, was the impact of getting all these people together in one room and the amount of networking that went on.

 In many cases, old friends and colleagues encountered each other in person for the first time since COVID-19. New members of the New Jersey tech and innovation community were introduced to each other. Academics got to meet corporate researchers, social innovators met tech innovators, and everyone had a LinkedIn-profile-page QR code on their badges, so it would be easy to keep relationships going after the event.

Just some of the innovative folks we took photos with at the Innovate NJ Celebration | Esther Surden

Jim Barrood spoke to when the event was over. “We’re really still in this post-COVID phase, when people are yearning to reconnect and reengage, and it was delightful to make that happen,” he told us.

“I was really happy with how this came together, with all stakeholders from companies to academia, to nonprofits to the government and investors.”

The celebration included a prerecorded congratulatory message from Governor Phil Murphy, whose wife, Tammy, along with her collaborators, was honored as an innovator for her work in establishing a chapter of the angel investment group Golden Seeds in New Jersey. Murphy said that innovation was in New Jersey’s DNA, and had been there since Edison and Einstein.

“New Jerseyans have always thought big, and we are incredibly proud to see this quintessential part of the Jersey spirit reflected in the work of every single one of you being honored today. And I promise you this:  We will continue to do everything we can to support innovators up and down our state in every industry and every field of endeavor,” he said.

Barrood spoke, as well, noting that when putting together the list and an accompanying book about innovation in New Jersey, he learned about new innovators in many sectors. “I’m pleased to say that the trailblazers of today include a diverse mix of innovation leaders. They are ideating, creating and improving so many products and services. Indeed, I was surprised to learn of so many new people doing extraordinary work. And after 25 years of supporting this innovation community, I thought I knew everyone in it!”

Before they returned to more networking, the audience members were treated to a musical performance by The Young Picassos, an innovative musical troupe from New Jersey.

But the highlight of the event was the networking. On a personal note, during the event we ran into lots of startup founders that had covered when their companies consisted of just one or two people. Many of them have thriving businesses today.  They’ve pivoted, they’ve gone through hard times, they’ve learned a lot and are still learning.  But there they were, being honored as innovators. What could be better than that?


Nokia Bell Labs: Thierry Klein, president, Bell Labs Solutions Research
Shahriar Shahramian, head of Bell Labs’ ASICs & Packaging Research Lab
Markus Hofmann, vice president
Verizon: Srinivasa Kalapala, SVP, chief product development officer
Bala Maddali, head, Conv AI + Gen AI CX Product Mgmt
Christian Guirnalda, director, Verizon 5G Labs and Innovation Centers
Siemens: Virginie Mallard, head Siemens Technology US
Arturo Pizano, program manager, University Collaboration
Colgate-Palmolive: Latonya Kilpatrick-Liverman, SVP, Clinical Research, Innovation & Scientific Communications
Hrebesh Molly Subhash, scientific researcher
Joseph Steele, principal scientist
IT Leaders: Ravi Kumar, CEO, Cognizant
Srini Pallia, CEO, Americas, Wipro
Audible/Amazon: Bob Carrigan, CEO
Aisha Glover, head, Urban Innovation
Colin Newman, director, Workforce/Eco Dev, Amazon
Axtria: Jassi Chadha, CEO
Navi Chadha, co-founder
Lokesh Jindal, head of products
IT Entrepreneurs: Neha Shah, president, GEP
Ben Thakur, principal, eTeam
Ranjini Poddar, CEO, Artech
CGI: Mike Reagan, SVP
Douglas Vargo, VP, Emerging Technology
Stephen Zemanick, AI & Innovation Lead
Caregility/Yorktel: Ron Gaboury, CEO
Bin Guan, chief product and innovation officer
Judi Pulig, CFO
CentralReach: Chris Sullens, CEO
Karen Parisi, CMO
Clark Convery, COO
SmartIMS/ConnX AI: Amar Reddy, CEO
Indrajit Ghosh, CEO
Entrepreneurs: Marques Brownlee, CEO, MKBHD
Michael Rodgers, CEO, Critical Response Group
Wim Sweldens, cofounder, CMO, Kiswe
AI Entrepreneurs: Rohit Vashisht, CEO,
Amir Hever, CEO, UVEye
Ramana Jampala, CEO, Avlino
CISOs: Ray Lipps, CISO, Symantec
Andre Elder, CISO, ZS
Sanjay Macwan, CISO, Vonage


Rutgers: Michael Zwick, senior vice president for Research
Vincent Smeraglia, executive director, New Ventures
Deborah Perez Fernandez, executive director
Rowan: Ali Houshmand, president
Tony Lowman, provost, SVP, Academic Affairs
Nidhal Bouaynaya, associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies
Princeton: Craig Arnold, vice dean of Innovation
Andrea Goldsmith, dean of Engineering and Applied Science
Rodney Priestley, dean of the Graduate School
NJIT: Teik Lim, president
Michael Johnson, president, NJII
Atam Dhawan, senior vice provost for Research
Stevens: Nariman Farvardin, president
Yuping Huang, director, Center for Quantum Science and Engineering
Mukund Iyengar, director, Center for Entrepreneurship Education
Fairleigh Dickinson: Michael Avaltroni, president
Ben Freer, director, School of Psychology and Counseling
Anastasia Rivkin, dean, School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
EdTech Entrepreneurs: Jiovany Orozco, CEO, CloudLabs
Chris Dudick, CEO, SILAS
Parkhill Mays, CEO, STOPit Solutions
EdTech Leaders: Forough Ghahramani, AVP, Edge
Jonathan Rochelle, VP, Product Management, LinkedIn
Rita McGrath, CEO, Valize


Morgan Stanley: Betsy McNeilly, CFP, executive director, Private Wealth Management
Michael Malz, CFP, executive director
Eisner Amper: John Pennett, partner, Technology and Life Science
Alan Wink, director, Capital Markets
Withum: Jim Bourke, managing director, Advisory Services
Chris DeMayo, partner/national practice leader
Fidelity: Scott Boyarsky, SVP, head of Digital Workplace
Yeonsuk Cho, principal UX researcher, Digital Workplace
NJCPA: AJ Johnson, CEO
Henrietta Fuchs, trustee; assurance partner, CohnReznick


RWJBarnabas: Mark Manigan, president
Michael Prilutsky, EVP, RWJBarnabas Health
Barbara Mintz, system SVP, Social Impact and Community Investment
Atlantic Health: Brian Gragnolati, p
Eric Whitman, system medical director; cancer care and director
Austin Murphy, director of Facilities and Clinical Engineering
Hackensack Meridian Health: Jeff Boscamp, president/dean, School of Medicine
Sandra Powell-Elliot, chief innovation and commercialization officer
David Perlin, CSO/EVP, Center for Discovery and Innovation
Valley Health: Robert Brenner, president
Eric Carey, CIO
Suneet Mittal, chair, Cardiovascular Service Line
Inspira Health: Amy Mansue, President
David Johnson, chief innovation and information officer
Jerry Vilbrun, VP, Information Systems
Rutgers Health: Brian Strom, chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Christian Hinrichs, co-director, Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence
Ray Panettieri, vice chancellor, Clinical & Translational Science
Entrepreneurs: David Fein, founder/MD, Princeton Longevity Center
Mark Baiada, founder/chair, Bayada Home Health
Abby Ayoub, Optical-Academy
Entrepreneurs: Yusuf Qasim, president, Payments, Zelis
Faris Ghawi, CEO, Vytalize Health
Minal Patel, CEO, Abacus Insights
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ: Saira Jan, VP & Chief Pharmacy Officer
Jennifer Velez, EVP, Health and Network Solutions
Delta Dental of NJ: Dennis Wilson, President/CEO


SOSV/HAX: Sean O’Sullivan, managing partner
Duncan Turner, general partner
Susan Schofer, partner
Tech Council Ventures: Jim Gunton, managing partner
Steve Socolof, managing partner
Mark Kolb, partner
Golden Seeds/DCIG: Gina Tedesco, managing partner
Tammy Murphy, cofounder
Elizabeth Sigety, MD, DCIG, Fox Rothschild
JumpStart NJ Angels: Steve Dyer, chair
Mario Casabona, board member
Rick Pinto, Esq., board member
Newark Venture Partners: Vaughn Crowe, managing partner
Tom Wisniewski, managing partner
Dan Borok, managing partner
Life Science VCs: Shahram Hejazi, BioAdvance
Jim Golubieski, FHA
Danielle Kranjac, Avant Bio
Veteran Investors: John Martinson, Martinson Ventures
Greg Olsen, GHO Ventures
Brian Smiga, Alpha Partners
Angels: Jay Bhatti, 49 Alpha
Jonathan Hakakian, Soundboard Venture Fund
Jill Johnson, IFEL
Valley Bank: Sanjay Sidwhani, chief data & analytics officer
Ivelin Tenev, business analytics manager, FVP
Alex Galli, data scientist
Provident Bank: Vito Giannola, chief retail banking officer
Ravi Vakacherla, chief digital and innovation officer
Tara Brady, director, Customer Experience
DAK: Alan Scharfstein, CEO
Mark Kuehn, principal
Mocafi: Wole Coaxum, CEO
Steve Royster, head of Community Banking & Marketing


Mondelez: Norberto Chaclin, global SVP, R&D Biscuits and Baked Snacks
Paula Elejalde, R&D lead, Latin America & Global BGCM
Campbell Soup: Mark Clouse, CEO
Craig Slavtcheff, chief R&D and innovation officer
Unilever: Lori Lauersen, senior VP, R&D, Health & Wellbeing
Samantha Tucker-Samaras, global VP, Science & Technology, Beauty and Personal Care R&D
MARS: Anton Vincent, president, Mars Wrigley NA + global ice cream
Monika Nelson, VP, Corp Tech & Mars Digital Experience
Nestle Health Science: Abigail Buckwalter, CEO
Rania Abou Samra, global head, Product Tech/Dev
Entrepreneurs: Joshua Anthony, CEO, Nlumn
Audley Wilson, CEO, Roboburger
Oishi: Hiroki Koga, CEO
Brendan Somerville, COO

Life Sciences

Genmab: Brad Bailey, head, US Market
Hisham Hamadeh, global head of Data Science & AI
Kelly Ragins, head of Dev Ops
Amicus: Bradley Campbell, president/CEO
Jessica March, head, US Marketing & Commercial Ops – Rare Disease Portfolio
John Crowley, founder/chair
Entrepreneurs: Bob Hariri, CEO, Celularity
Navneet Puri, CEO, Nevakar
Miruna Sasu, CEO, COTA
Haro Hartounian, BioCentriq
Patty Leuchten, Diligent Pharma
Nina Tandon, Epibone
Academic Leaders: Keith Bostian, CEO, ILSE, Kean University
Paola Leone, professor, Rowan University
Vivek Kumar, associate professor, NJIT

Real Estate

DEVCO/HELIX: Christopher Paladino, CEO
Merissa Buczny, vice president
SJP Properties: Steven Pozycki, CEO
Andrew Natale, COO
Somerset Dev/Bell Works: Ralph Zucker, president
Jeff Garibaldi, CEO, Garibaldi Group
Onyx Equities: Jonathan Schultz, managing principal
John Saraceno, managing principal


Pete Connolly, CEO, NJMEP
Academia: Deirdre O’Carroll, Rutgers University
Sam Gatley, NJIT/NJII Angelo Stracquatanio, CEO
John Zimmerman, senior director, Engineering
Entrepreneurs: Tom Szaky, CEO, TerraCycle
Gail Friedberg Rottenstrich, CEO, ZAGO
Suuchi Ramesh, CEO, Suuchi
Entrepreneurs: Mitch Cahn, President, Unionwear
Madhu Stemmermann, CEO, SunRay Scientific
Wallace Santos, CEO, MainGear

Legal Services

Dennis Toft, CSG Law
Robert Johnson, Gibbons
Frank Vitolo, Sills Cummis
Steve Cohen, Morgan Lewis
Susan Goldsmith, McCarter & English
Andy Gilbert, DLA Piper
Richard Gearhart, Gearhart
Jesse Nash, Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt
Prema Roddam, Fragomen, SABA
Joe Shapiro, Middlebrooks Shapiro
Diya Mathews, Chugh
Geoff Gussis, Gussis; Law Department Solutions


NJEDA: Tim Sullivan, CEO
Kathleen Coviello, chief economic transformation officer
Judith Sheft, executive director, NJCIST
Tech Leaders: Beth Noveck, chief AI strategist, NJ
Dave Cole, chief innovation officer, NJ
Mayors: Steve Fulop, Mayor, Jersey City
Jim Cahill, Mayor, New Brunswick
Ras Baraka, Mayor, Newark
Ravi Bhalla, Mayor, Hoboken
Legislature: Andrew Zwicker, State Senator
Chris Tully, Assemblyman, Chair, AST
Small Business: Kelly Brozyna, CEO, NJSBC
Tai Cooper, CCDO, NJEDA


Gensler: Becky Button, managing director
Roger Smith, design director
Michael Graves: Joe Furey, president
Robert Blaser, principal
Entrepreneurs: Robert Hillier, Studio Hillier
Brandon Warshofsky, Brick Studios
Baye Adolfo-Wilson, BAW Development


Turtle: Jayne Millard, chair/co-CEO; Luis Valls, president/co-CEO
Entrepreneurs: Brian Berzin, cofounder/CEO, Thea Energy
Paul Shagawat, cofounder/MP, Transparent Energy
Princeton NuEnergy: Chao Yan, cofounder/CEO; Xiaofang Yang cofounder/CTO
RenewC02: Anders Laursen, cofounder/CEO; Karin Calvinho, cofounder/CTO
PureLi: Sean Zheng, cofounder/CEO, Jason Ren, cofounder/CTO

Marketing/Public Relations

Mike Kempner, founder/CEO, MWW
Mike Hennessy, founder/CEO, MJH Life Sciences
Jay Kulkarni, founder/CEO, Theorem
Vincent Mazza, founder/CEO, eDesign Interactive
Steve Jones, founder/CEO, pocstock
Cheryl McCants, founder/CEO, Impact Consulting
Anthony Frasier, founder/CEO, ABF Creative
CMOs: Kelly Ryman, McCarter Theatre Center
Vincent Schweikert, New Jersey Business & Industry Association


Liberty Science Center/SciTech Scity: Paul Hoffman, CEO
Alexander Richter, ED, SciTech Innovation Hub
Tamour Kousha, CFO
Choose New Jersey: Wesley Mathews, CEO
Tim Crouch, CSO
Carly Wronko, director, Marketing
STEM Leaders: Kim Case, RDNJ
Michael Palladino, Stockton University
Sunita Kramer, TCNJ
Newark Leaders: Victor Salama, GNEC
Citi Medina, Equal Space
Thomas Owens, MENTOR Newark
Female Entrepreneurship: Chaya Pamula, SheTek
Alfa Demmellash, Rising Tide
Rana Shanawani, WCEC Women’s Business Center
TiE NJ: Suresh Kumar, president
Jyoti Vazirani, board member; Futran Solutions
Ashok Krish, board member; Kaizen
Community Leaders: Clark Lagemann, Scarlet Startups
Venu Moola/Chris Boraski, Princeton Tech Meetup
David Stengle, Startup Grind Princeton
Brittany Jacobs/Alison Lamano, Jersey Shore Women in Tech
Bret Morgan, Jersey Shore Tech Meetup
Pavita Howe, BioNJ
Dan Seewald, Deliberate Innovation
Ivonne Diaz-Claisse, HISPA
Jen Libby, Promly
Andrew Weilgus, eSports Innovation Center
Nihat Guvercin, iLearn Schools
Ted Mann, South Jersey Collective
Eric LeGrand, EG Coffee/EGWhiskey/ShopFiftyTwo
Urban Planning/RE Leaders: Peter Kasabach, NJ Future
Sherif Abouzeid, City Summits
Emily Manz, Invest Newark

Special Mention (Accounting, Real Estate, Food, Academia)

Len Green, founder/chairman, The Green Group

Innovators to Watch

Quentin Robinson, head, Product/Eng, Connected Devices, Amazon
Kanchan Soman, AVP, Data & Analytics, Crum & Forster
Kaleigh Kist, senior scientist, Mondelez
Amer Hanini, partner, Hanini Group
Vivian Chen, dept. head, Opto-Electronics, Nokia Bell Labs
PeduL: Chisa Egbelu, cofounder/CEO, PeduL; Kayla Jackson, cofounder
HRS: Jarrett Bauer, cofounder/chair; Rohan Udeshi, cofounder/COO
Carmelo Cintron, chief of staff to CEO, SOSV
Chika Ogele, associate, Newark Venture Partners
Christina Pellicane, AD, Northeast I-Corps Hub
Richie Etwaru, cofounder/CAIO, Mobeus
Jerah Siegal, founder/CEO, Biodome
Leila Collins, senior advisor, Governor Murphy
Sam Caucci, founder/CEO, 1Huddle
Ashley Edwards, founder/CEO, Mindright
Abran Maldonado, founder/CEO, Creative Labs Ventures
John Melizanis, founder/CEO, ShipDudes
Jason Frasca, Montclair State University
Parth Mehta, chair, Emerging Founders, TiE NJ
Chris Gittings, founder/CEO, Cogent Connections
Guanhao Wu, cofounder/CEO, Exovolar
John Snee, founder, Startup Grind Trenton

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